Founded in 1995, Firebird is building a reputation as a unique, dynamic, and accomplished group of musicians performing on Russian traditional instruments. These include the domra, a string instrument with a thin, fretted neck and round body first appearing in written records at the end of the 15th century; the balalaika, a triangular-bodied Russian instrument well known to Western audiences from the film Doctor Zhivago; and the bayan, a member of the accordion family popular in Russia and Ukraine. Firebird’s repertoire ranges from traditional Russian and Eastern European songs to well-known classics and works of contemporary composers.
Touring extensively in the US and abroad, the ensemble also performs for TV, radio, and films. Firebird has appeared with great success at the John Anson Ford Amphitheater in Los Angeles, Palace of Fine Arts Theater in San Francisco, Fechin Institute in Taos, NM, Hoover Auditorium in Lakeside, OH, Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa, Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts in Reno, Sound of LA concert series at the Getty Museum, the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, and the Russian International Festival in San Francisco.
Iryna Orlova, an outstanding virtuoso of the domra and a graduate of the Kiev Conservatory, is the music director. She has been playing the domra since the age of 10. Iryna is a winner of the Ukrainian Stage Performer’s Competition in Zaporizhia (1978) and the USSR Stage Performer’s Competition in St. Petersburg (1979). She is a Ukrainian national laureate of the All Ukrainian Folk Musician Competition. She was a soloist in the “Ridni Naspivy” ensemble with the Kiev State Philharmonic Society. She has toured extensively in Ukraine, Russia, Europe, the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Asia.
Bayan player Anatoliy Mamalyga is the principal arranger for Firebird. Anatoliy was the music director and conductor of the internationally acclaimed “Ridni Naspivy” ensemble of the Kiev State Philharmonic Society. He is an Honored Artist of Ukraine and a laureate of the Second International Golden Accordion Competition (New York 2000).
Peter Rothe studied balalaika with Emanuil Sheynkman and toured with the Odessa Balalaika Ensemble for 12 years. With this group he performed at the Hollywood Bowl, Beckman Auditorium Ambassador Auditorium (Cal Tech, Pasadena), and made several recordings with Nonesuch.
Tom Barnes plays the contra-bass balalaika, the largest instrument of the balalaika family. A graduate of Cal State University Dominguez Hills, Tom also plays guitar with different groups in Southern California. He is one of the founding members of the Los Angeles Balalaika Orchestra.
Lynn McConnell, alto balalaika, received her Master of Arts degree in music from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1974. Since then she has performed professionally on alto and prima balalaikas with various Russian groups, such as the Troika Balalaikas, Tziganka, the Great American Gypsy Band, and the Nevá Russian Dance Ensemble. She has recorded three albums, has toured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and the Far East, and is one of the founding members of the Balalaika and Domra Association of America.